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Ten Misconceptions Concerning Neurobiology and Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2013

John R. Hibbing
Political Physiology Lab, University of Nebraska–Lincoln (


Political science is far behind the other social science disciplines in incorporating neurobiological concepts, techniques, and theory. In recent years progress has been made in closing this gap but many in the political science mainstream view the movement with concern or even horror. Though a healthy dose of skepticism is appropriate and beneficial to the scientific endeavor, negative reactions to viewing politics through a neurobiological lens are often based on fundamental misconceptions regarding both neurobiology and politics. In this Reflections essay, I address ten of these misconceptions, including the beliefs that biology is deterministic, reductionist, unnecessary, irrelevant, normatively dangerous, and ideologically biased. The goal is to encourage a constructive dialogue on the relevance of neurobiology to political life—a dialogue that would in turn improve research in the fledgling subfield and lead to innovations in political science by encouraging new ways of conceptualizing and analyzing the variables at the discipline's core.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2013 

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